Trieste continues to offer little surprises and reveal itself as a city of “Firsts”. Thanks to Sonia Sicco, a young woman I met a couple of years ago here in Trieste — I have learned something new about my adopted city.
Sonia works in communications, but her hobby is to peruse and collect and share information on the history of Trieste. She is truly a treasure trove of information and you can pick up a lot of “factoids” from her Twitter account, @soniasicco.
Believe it or not, the Report Card — that piece of paper we all dreaded having to bring home detailing our successes and failings in the classroom -was first introduced to Italy, in Trieste, in 1873.
The report card was first implemented in Trieste, when it was under Austrian rule, by the Emperor of Austria, Joseph II (son of Maria Theresia) who issued an edict that required all schools to certify that children, upon completion of elementary school be able to read, write and do basic computation — basically your “‘readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic”. At that time, educational activities were not regulated and were handled either by religious leaders or private instructors, often with overcrowded classes. Students were not grouped by age but ability, so it wasn’t unusual to find “classes” comprised of both adults and children, with all the problems such a situation would present.
In Italian it is called the “pagella” which is derived from the word “pagina” or page. The pagella or “little page” is a deceptively cute sounding name that doesn’t fully represent the full impact it has on the lives of students.
(photos courtesy MicroOsio https://www.microosio.it/joomla/2015-02-07-17-14-49/briciole-di-storia/113-breve-storia-della-pagella)
In 1859, before the unification of Italy, elementary education became free and madatory, for a minimum of 2 years, thanks to the Casati law. After the unification, the law was extended throughout all of Italy, where 80% of the population was illiterate. Then the report card, was issued by the City Hall and would attest to the attendance and promotion to the next year and finally certify graduation.
The official Report card only came into being during the Fascist era thanks to a royal decree pronounced on June 20, 1926. However, it was no longer provided by the school or the city, instead each family had to buy the pagella from the tabaccaio (the tobacco shop which in Italy still todays sells bolli (a type of tax sold in stamp form for various gov’t and private services) at a cost of 5 lire (about 4 euros today), a price that made attending school prohibitive for many families. The government then created a fund (Balilla) making it free for low-income families’ children, between the ages of 8-14. In 1929, the tax was finally dropped altogether.
The first report cards had on their cover page the royal crest of the house of Savoy and the grades were expressed in evaluations (sufficient, good, commendable …) and not in numerical grades as is customary today.
The Fascist regime also used it to indoctrinate young people, who had to be healthy, athletic and educated in fascist values, by adding categories that were intended to evaluate, fitness, hygiene and behavior in order to evaluate the students’ ability to “Believe, Obey and Fight”.
With the subsequent reforms, the report card took the form that exists today.